Revealed: The Jerusalem Jews Behind the Israeli Conduit Funneling Money to Canary Mission

Haaretz found that the man behind Megamot Shalom, through which money was funneled to the controversial online blacklist that tracks BDS activists, works with far-right rabbi Ben Packer

Haaretz has revealed new information about Megamot Shalom, the mysterious body through which funds were allegedly transferred to fund Canary Mission, a controversial online blacklist that tracks Palestinian rights activists and supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Jonathan Bash

Haaretz found that Jonathan Bash, who heads Megamot Shalom, is also the owner of Royal Research, a company which provides "research, data collection and website preparation services." The company was founded in September 2015, a few months after Canary Mission started to operate online. In an expose published by the Forward, two sources who spoke with the paper said that Bash, a resident of the Old City of Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter, told them he was the person behind Canary Mission.

Ben Packer, an American-born rabbi who runs the Jerusalem Heritage House and is known to be an outspoken supporter of the far-right extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, is a shareholder in Megamot Shalom alongside Bash.

Bash refused to respond to Haaretz's request for a response, as did others involved in Megamot Shalom and in Royal Research, including their accountant. However, a source familiar with Megamot Shalom's activities said it's a small body and confirmed that it engages in research and online activities.

Haaretz recently revealed that Israel is using the information found on the Canary Mission site to ban entry into the country of some of the people the website follows, including Lara Alqasem, the American student barred from entering Israel for graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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The Canary Mission website.

The identities of the people behind Canary Mission, as well as its funders, are clouded in secrecy. In early October, the Forward exposed that the American Helen Diller Family Foundation, which is controlled by the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, donated $100,000 to Canary Mission through Megamot Shalom, a body that was previously almost unknown. The money was transferred through the New York-based Central Fund of Israel, an organization that serves as a conduit for transferring tens of millions of dollars a year to various organizations in Israel, many connected to right-wing groups and Jewish settlements.

Bash founded Megamot Shalom in 2016 as an Israeli public benefit corporation - a form of nonprofit that has shareholders. According to a Haaretz investigation, Megamot Shalom was registered in Beit Shemesh under the address of its accountant, Eli Gough. Gough, who refused to respond or comment on this story, is also the accountant for Royal Research. Several of its stockholders live adjacent to Bash in Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter - for example, Ben Packer, who also refused to comment for this story. 

Bash, a British citizen born in 1973, founded the company while he was already operating Royal Research. The purpose of Megamot Shalom, as reported to the Justice Ministry's Corporations Authority, is to "preserve and ensure the strength of Israel's national image and to act in the media against boycott, sanctions and divestment against Israel in the face of international challenges, using technological media tools."

In 2016, when the company was founded, it employed 12 salaried workers and seven volunteers. The highest salary that year was 43,000 shekels ($12,000) paid to a content consultant. Other salaried employees included a finance manager, social media manager, content writer and a content editor. According to the protocols of Megamot Shalom's general assembly from June 2017, its current assets are valued at 255,000 shekels ($70,000). Its turnover is about 600,000 shekels and its program budget is 436,000 shekels. Among other things, Megamot Shalom spent 67,000 shekels ($18,000) on "internet content editing."

At the same time, Bash ran Royal Research, which was registered in at his Jerusalem home. According to the company's financial report, in 2016 revenues from service provision amounted to about 460,000 shekels ($127,000), and its expenses amounted to about 360,000 shekels. A year later, the company's revenues diminished to nearly zero, although it is still listed as active. Bash is also listed in Companies House, the British companies' registrar, on the board of directors of a British company called Body Clock Health Care and as its former head of IT.

An official at the Strategic Affairs Ministry, the body that spearheads Israel’s fight against the BDS Movement, told Haaretz it does not work with Canary Mission, Royal Research or Megamot Shalom.